I’ve got some very good tips for you today regarding black and white photography. I’ve been a black and white photographer for a very long time, so I feel that I’ve got some street cred when it comes to this sort of thing. I’ve had my photos appear on websites, in print and at shows, so please ask me any questions you’d like below this post.
As the title suggests, I have six great black and white photography tips to share. These are all very simple to pull off and they shouldn’t cause you any stress at all. I’ll list them down below.
Analyze Your Subject
When taking black and white photos, you can’t just willy-nilly start pointing and shooting at anything you see. Even though you’ll likely edit your shots in post-processing (Camera Raw, Photoshop, Lightroom), you’ll still need to analyze your scenes before you capture them to decide if they’re worth it. For instance, it you take a photo of a subject that’s very colorful, that subject may look wonderful as a colored image, but it might look terrible as a black and white one. This is because many colors are similarly shaded (tone) and the distinction between them wouldn’t stand out at all after conversion to black and white, whether that conversion occurs inside your camera or during post-processing. Of course, you can use the color sliders in Camera Raw and Lightroom to alter the tone of those colors, but it’s always best to start off with a subject that wants to be photographed and end up as a black and white.
The ideal black and white subject has distinct tonal elements, meaning it’s got dark blacks and light whites. These inherent shades will add a lot of punch to your ultimate photograph.
Shoot in Both RAW & JPEG Mode
When you shoot in RAW, your camera captures and retains all the color data that was found in the scene. When you shoot in JPEG mode and use one of your camera’s internal black and white filters, you lose some data. There is value in losing some data though in the JPEGs if you retain it in the RAW versions. Upon review, the JPEG can give you a clear picture of what your camera sees. It can also tell you if it’s worth it to continue shooting that particular subject. Again, I want to emphasize that you can always make tons of adjustments in the HSL panel in Camera Raw, but it’s always best to shoot subjects that would naturally result in a more appealing image.
Take Advantage of Lens Filters
Oftentimes, when using lens filters, the photographer doesn’t necessarily know what the end result is going to be. This description pertains to when someone is shooting in color. The same is true when the intention is to convert the color to black and white. Lens filters (ND, Polarizing, Graduated ND, Color Filters) can offer some extraordinary results when it comes to this type of photography. Of course, you’ll need to get used to things when shooting with filters to come to know what to expect, but the goal really is to add to the contrast and tonal discrepancies that are found in any scene. Give lens filters a try to see what you can come up with.
Take Long Exposure Shots
We all know that time-lapse and long exposure photography can result in some stunning color photographs, but have you ever considered taking long exposure shots when it comes to black and white? With the goal of black and white photography being the accentuation of the various tones a scene offers, capturing the highlights of that scene over a few seconds could potentially produce interesting results. Especially for this very specific type of photography.
Work Your Magic in Camera Raw
Adobe Camera Raw offers some very powerful tools when it comes to the grayscale conversion of color photos. If the photo was captured in RAW mode, you’ll have tons of leeway when it comes to manipulation via the HSL sliders. Each color that was in the image can be controlled as a black and white tone. I’m sure you can imagine the implications of this. If someone has blue hair, you’ll have the ability to make that hair lighter or darker simply by the push of the blue slider. Of course, you’ll need to first see the colors that are present in the image to know which slider to push, but there are tools to assist with that as well. The Targeted Adjustment Tool being one of them.
Dodge & Burn in Adobe Photoshop
If you’ve ever worked with the Dodge Tool or Burn Tool in Photoshop, you know that those two tools can lighten and darken specific areas of an image with just the touch of a mouse button. The best part about these tools is that they’re completely customizable and controllable via the options bar at the top of the application. Imagine how much better you could make a black and white photograph look if you had the power to force lighter and darker tones in a sized and articulated manner.
Well, there are my tips. I hope they help and if you have anything to add or any questions, please go ahead and type away down below.